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The Treadmill Desk: Fad or Future

  • 14 min read

By now, you must already know that using a standing desk while juggling tasks is effective in reversing the symptoms of a sedentary lifestyle. But why stand when you can walk?

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This better-for-your-health option led to the invention of the treadmill desk. As its name implies, this workstation has two major parts: a desk (usually with handrails) for holding work equipment and accessories, and a treadmill desk attachment.

Because walking burns 130 more calories per hour than standing, investing in a unit (or several units) seems wiser. But do not be too hasty in filling out that order form, though. Before deciding, ask yourself this important question first, “Is it really worth it?”

What Is a Treadmill Desk?

Deskbound warriors who spend a minimum of eight hours at the office stand to benefit much from using a desk treadmill. Weighing approximately 114 pounds, this trendy workstation hits two birds with one stone:

1. Because it is an ergonomically designed desk, users can do all sorts of office-related tasks typing at the computer, taking calls, etc.).

2. While working, you can walk the stress off at the same time, hence completing the required 10,000 steps to stay healthy and fit.

Before you start planning work schedules with your new standing desk treadmill, you must know how to properly use it first. Each unit, regardless of the brand, comes with a manual. It contains instructions and information that all users need to learn. The literature may include exercise guidelines required for helping you structure your own fitness program.

What Led to the Invention of the Under Desk Treadmill?

The experts behind the development of the waking treadmill desk were inspired by Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic who specialized in obesity research. According to The New Yorker, they based its design on his work on non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This study shows how heat is produced in organisms through activities that are not associated with exercise.

Dr. Levine conducted his study in the early 2000s. He set up an actual prototype of what would eventually become today’s treadmill desk. All he did was put a bedside hospital tray atop a conventional treadmill and began using it. During the course of his study, he proved that the makeshift device he created worked in bettering his overall health.

Despite the success of Dr. Levine’s research, the equipment did not become popular until 2006. It was only after Roger Highfield, a science writer and former director of external affairs for British Museums, proved its efficacy that the public finally caught on to its health benefits.

How Much Does a Treadmill Desk Actually Cost

The price of a treadmill desk depends on the model. All models, regardless of the manufacturer, are designed based on ergonomic principles. However, each comes with its own specifications. These unique qualities were designed following the results of an objective study of the target market’s needs and lifestyle.

In general, a walking desk treadmill costs from $800 to $4,000. Models with average prices cost $2,100 to $3,000 per unit. Usually, workers use treadmill desks for a minimum of 30 minutes per shift. At times, depending on individual employee preference, this may extend to two hours, taken straight or divided into four 15-minute sessions.

With this, you can conclude that there is no “one price fits all” when it comes to getting an ergonomically designed equipment like a treadmill desk. To get the best value for your money, it is best to inquire with your friendly sales personnel. Do take the time to ask questions and ask for informative literature (i.e. brochures, leaflets, catalogs, etc.) if necessary.

Treadmill Desk/Desktop Attachment vs. an Integrated Treadmill Desk

Once you shop around for a treadmill desk, you have to consider what type will best fit your needs. To date, there are three variants available: integrated treadmill desks, treadmill desk attachment, and treadmill desktop attachment.

  • Integrated Treadmill Desk

Quite literally, this unit is a treadmill and office desk rolled into one. What makes it different from the other two variants? You will not be able to detach the counter from the treadmill, and vice versa. Once you purchase this, you get it fully assembled, no detachable parts whatsoever.

  • Treadmill Desk Attachment

If you already own a standing desk, getting a treadmill for your desk at work instead of an integrated variant is the best way to go. Apart from saving money, you also save space. What’s more, instead of trying to fit two bulky workstations in your house, you only have to make room for one.

  • Treadmill Desktop Attachment

This counter is a specially designed desk for treadmill that is usually made by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Users and DIY enthusiasts who already own a treadmill find it more economical to just get a desk top. This way, they can easily transform their favorite exercise machine into a treadmill desk.

What Are the Pros to a Standing Desk Treadmill

Fact: People are not moving often enough to stay healthy. We belong to a generation of couch potatoes. Our technological dependence has kept us bound to our seats that we miss out on the essentials of healthy living. One of them is the need for regular exercise.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to work out for hours on end to stay in shape. Simple activities you can do with your eyes closed, like walking, work equally well in burning calories. So whenever you walk on your treadmill desk, you are making yourself healthier as it:

  • Boosts mood while reducing stress

Walking releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones in your body. In turn, this improves your overall disposition. So instead of driving yourself to the doldrums while meeting deadlines, you are actually preventing depression by using this workstation.

  • Makes you more creative

According to Psychology Today, experts say that people who exercise regularly find it easier to think more creatively than those who do not. So whenever you are stumped, do not despair. Just start pacing!

  • Increases your productivity

Featured on Life Span, the study conducted by the University of Minnesota revealed that people who walk while working become more productive Moreover, their output quality, time management skills and general mental performance also improve.

  • Maintains optimal body weight

Although pacing slowly will not help you shed as much weight as biking or stair climbing will, it suffices to promote a healthy body weight. To remove unwanted kilos, you need to burn more calories. And you can do so by simply walking for longer periods or by adding incline.

  • Makes you less prone to (Type 2) diabetes

As a form of exercise, walking lowers the amount of glucose in the blood. Done every day, it lowers your risk of coming down with Type 2 diabetes. As shared by Men’s Health, walking beats running when it comes diabetes prevention. Accordingly, researchers concluded that walkers have six times better glucose tolerance than runners.

  • Reduces blood pressure

According to WebMD, pacing reduces blood pressure. To maximize benefits, experts advise that people walk at least 30 minutes each day. So if you can get on the treadmill desk and pace away while working, you will have fulfilled the requirement without even trying. If you are a beginner, divide the time by walking twice or thrice daily for 10-15 minutes each.

  • Keeps your bones strong

To keep bones strong, experts say that low-weight bearing or high-weight bearing exercises (dancing, jumping, running, etc.) work well. Low-bearing workouts include walking, hiking, or climbing stairs. Do this right by keeping your body straight while pacing on a treadmill desk.

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The First Under the Desk Treadmill Dilemma: Nowhere to Sit

What differentiates a treadmill desk from a standing desk? Well, to state the obvious, you can always spend the first few miles going over emails or checking reports. But should you get tired and want to sit down, you have to get off the platform and flop on a nearby seat.

The absence of a seat, however, is not what people consider to be the biggest problem with treadmill desks. Other factors, specifically those that impact work practices, are what you should consider before deciding whether or not this product is right for you.

  • A Stable Desk Surface

If your desk is not stable enough, vibrations or any slight movement can distract you from your task. The number of legs your desk has affects its stability. Two-legged units are more likely to be shaky than four-legged variants. Another factor is height. The taller it is, the more unstable it can get. With a treadmill desk, some reviews stated that walking can cause the desk frame to oscillate once you touch the keyboard.

But long before these comments came out, some manufacturers already foresaw the problem. To address it, they built specially designed units that keep vibrations at bay. These workstations have built-in components like sturdy keyboard trays. This prevents shaking and oscillating, which impede users’ concentration.

  • The Right Height

Looking at how a treadmill desk is built, people can quickly assume that they can make one for themselves. Going the DIY route may seem like the best option, especially when you think that fitting a standup desk with treadmill is all there is to it. Truth be told, where your convenience and productivity are concerned, structural factors like “height” are critical.

Now, if you want to adjust the height of a makeshift desk by stacking books, blocks of wood, or any other materials, the desk becomes unstable. To avoid wasting time and effort in customizing your desk, getting a reliable treadmill desk is the best way to go.

How a Treadmill for a Desk May Annoy Others: The Sweat Machine

Some treadmill desk reviews have detailed how the reviewers/users established a healthier practice just by using it while they worked. The adjustment phase proved quite challenging for some. Others, however, encountered very little to no trouble at all.

The number of miles you can cover on this fitness-inspired workstation will depend on your personal preference and stamina. Racing with colleagues by comparing mileage while working on your computers may adversely impact productivity.

Do keep in mind that walking was, is, and will always be a form of exercise. The act of moving your legs without shaking your focus may not come readily. Creatives, specifically professionals in the visual fields, thrive on this type of mental stimulation. However, this may not apply to everyone, especially those who require analytical thinking skills to accomplish tasks.

In one review, the writer admitted that he found it hard to pen long strings of words while his feet were moving. Another reviewer, on the other hand, refuted this claim, saying that he found it more intellectually stimulating. He even went on to add that it helped him focus more, which could be troublesome for professionals who have to analyze and review technical topics.

So given these conflicting reviews, how does using a treadmill desk measure up in terms of helping users stay productive at work? It all boils down to individual situations and preferences.

Pacing is also a key factor. Walk at your own pace, and avoid racing at all cost. Otherwise, you will be straying away from your true goal: to work productively while staying healthy.

The Dress Code Change: Desk for Treadmill

Every office has its own dress code. Usually, employees don corporate attire—blazers, slacks, suits, blouses, closed shoes, etc. Other organizations, however, let their workers romp around in casual but still presentable clothes. Do any of these dress codes apply to offices using treadmill desks?

Should there be any dress code to begin with?

Because walking makes you sweat more, long-time users advice wearing comfortable clothes. Instead of heels and closed shoes, go for flats or open-toed footwear made of durable, yet flexible materials that let your feet breathe.

If you are working at home, juggling tasks in workout gear is okay. However, this may be considered inappropriate for a typical office environment where you may have to interact with people from time to time.

So the key is to strike a balance: Wear clothes that are comfortable for walking on a desk treadmill, yet presentable enough to emphasize your status as a professional. Be particular with the kinds of fabric used. Choose lightweight and not-too-thick fabrics such as cotton, silk, linen, rayon, cambric, georgette, and seersucker.

The Walking Treadmill Desk: A Matter of Finding the Right Pace

How fast should you walk to burn the ideal amount of calories required to stay healthy? Because you will stay rooted in your office, the only way to gauge progress on a treadmill desk is through mileage.

Some treadmill desk reviews were quick to point out that covering two miles per hour on average suffices. Others, however, claim that 1 to 1.5 is more apt because doing more could become distracting.

Like their prices, the amount of mileage you can ideally cover while working on this workstation varies. It will depend on your stamina, situation, and tasks at hand.

In writing and answering emails, which do not require thorough research and concentration, walking 1.5 miles per hour is alright. If you are answering calls or doing phone interviews, on the other hand, walking two miles will not get in the way of your discussions.

For those who are just getting started, walking 30 minutes a day is advisable. Accordingly, this should be divided into two 15-minute sessions: one during the first half of the shift and the other one in the second half.

After a while, you may ramp it up by 5 minutes each day depending on how fast you can go without hindering focus. Again, it’s highly recommended that you split this equally between the two sessions, adding increments of 2.5 minutes to each half of the shift.

As you continue to add 5 minutes more each day, the higher your general fitness level gets. Once you have reached 90 minutes (45 minutes for each half of the shift), it is up to you to decide whether you want more of a challenge or not.

What are the Best Treadmill Desks on Amazon?

Finding the best treadmill desk that fits your needs requires research. Costs will differ based on the brand and the specific model. There are many brands to choose from. Below are four of the most popular brands in the market nowadays:

  • LifeSpan
  • Go Plus
  • Life Fitness
  • Walktop

Each model and brand has specific features whose details you need to go over—and this applies whether you want a complete unit or just a treadmill for your standing desk. If there is information you do not fully understand, feel free to discuss them with the sales personnel.

Why the Desk Treadmill Should Not Eliminate the Gym

There is no doubt that walking benefits your overall physical and mental health. However, if you want to focus on developing certain muscle groups or have a physical/mental condition that calls for special exercises, then using a treadmill desk alone will not suffice.

The same thing applies to people who want and/or need to lose weight. Based on the findings of the Oregon State University research, users are not burning enough calories even if they walk for 45 minutes a day. Why? They are walking too slowly.

The required amount of exercise weekly should be at least 150 minutes of moderate to brisk physical routines. If you are going to use a treadmill desk, you will have to walk for an average of two miles per hour. But how will you do this if you are rushing to beat deadlines?

Based on the findings of some reviews, walking while working may impede concentration. In turn, the amount of focus needed to execute a task depends on the type of activities involved. If you rely on your creativity or analysis to complete projects, walking at a fast pace may hinder concentration.

So the bottom line is to still find time to do concentrated workouts outside of the workplace. By concentrated, that means focused physical routines. This way, you get to adjust your pace and carry out the right types of exercises needed to work out specific muscle groups. 

What about the DIY Treadmill Desk

Not all DIYers are doomed to throw money away and exhaust themselves needlessly by constructing their own treadmill desk. To avoid any unnecessary trouble, kindly pay attention to these guidelines:

  • Research information first before assembling

Before you start with the actual construction, it pays to learn how other successful DIYers pulled it off. Also, you should read up on ergonomics. Where convenience and good posture are concerned, knowing the how’s and why’s comprising an ergonomically designed desk is critical.

Finally, take the time to go over product reviews and see how others made good use of their equipment. Know the importance of determining and setting your own pace. All of this information combined will set you down the right path.

  • Get the right treadmill for your standing desk

For starters, you cannot build your own treadmill desk if you do not have a treadmill. So make sure that you have a high quality, purpose-built exercise equipment first. Although this is self-explanatory, some DIYers are too keen on saving money that they put their safety on the line by getting the cheapest units in the market.

More often than not, such units are poorly manufactured and they are more likely to burn out quickly. Worse, they greatly increase your risk of accidents. Before assembling, check that the equipment has adequate walking space and safety features like rails and caps. Take note that you may have to modify some parts to make room for a properly elevated desk top.

  • Make sure that your monitor is properly elevated

If you think that building a high-enough desk with an even surface and a working treadmill underneath is all there is to it, think again. Many people think that they only need to put their laptops on the desk to start working and walking at the same time. To reap the benefits of using this innovative work station, the height of your monitor matters as much as the height of the keyboard.

Assuming that your laptop’s keyboard is of the right height because your desk is a standing desk, your monitor is still too low. This may force you into a position where you might bend your neck to see the screen clearly. Because you are busy, you may end up frozen in this position for a few hours. Needless to say, this will strain the muscles connecting your neck and upper back.

  • Avoid taking shortcuts to speed up assembly

Take note: Your treadmill desk will be your working partner for a long time. Therefore, ensuring its stability is important. Otherwise, you may end up having an accident while rushing to completion. For DIYers, the temptation to cut corners is too strong. Because you want to finish assembling your makeshift unit faster, your mind begins toying with questionable ideas to help you finish sooner. Before this happens, stop and remind yourself that “your safety should never be compromised at all cost”.

More Treadmill Desk Reviews: Others Agree

Since its official introduction to the public, many writers and ergonomic experts have tested the treadmill desk. Because many of these reviewers have spent a great deal of their careers strapped to their desks, verifying the validity of the supposed benefits of the equipment was easy.

Although not everyone was satisfied, some cannot stop raving about how using the treadmill desk has improved their lives. Here are three reasons why some reviewers now find themselves unable to work without pacing:

  • A Healthier Heart

Your heart automatically becomes healthier when you walk. With each step, its rate and pumping increases. In turn, this makes the blood flow more smoothly, enabling it to deliver more nutrients to the other organs in the body. The more you pace, the stronger the heart gets.

  • Better Thinking Abilities

The body is not the only one that benefits from walking. Your mind also improves, as indicated by an increase in gray matter. This combats cognitive function decline that comes with aging. In addition, it improves focus and keeps users alert.

  • Farewell to Back Pain

Bid back pain farewell for good once you ditch the chair and start pacing while you work. Aside from your back, your neck and shoulders will also thank you for replacing your conventional desk with a treadmill desk. Walking automatically betters your core, hence improving posture. The more you pace, the more you engage different groups of muscles in your body.

  • Is the Walking Treadmill Desk Truly Worth the Cost

Fun Fact: Treadmill desks are not cheap. Before you order one, do your research first. Check websites and inquire with sales people if needed. If you are the quintessential “handyman” (or handywoman), constructing your own treadmill desk may prove to be just a walk in the park. All you need to do is look up some tutorials online or read up articles about it, to learn how. Then, you will ready your tools, get to work, and voila!

But what if you have never handled a tool in your life? Or your work eats up most of your time that spending even just an hour to put the whole contraption together is improbable? Well, such is the case with some people who have tried their best only to fail.

  • Why You Might Be Better off with a Standing Desk

Come to think of it. Burning calories while actively using your brain cells is a remarkably ideal concept. This gave way to the invention and eventual introduction of the treadmill desk. Prior to its official release in 2007, skeptics assumed that treadmill desks were only good in theory. However, more than a decade and thousands (or probably millions) of happy converts later, even the direst of non-believers found themselves proven wrong—and they couldn’t be happier.

But this does not mean that a treadmill desk is the best workstation for you just because others say so. As with other types of equipment, you need to evaluate your lifestyle needs thoroughly before investing in a treadmill desk. You do not have the exact same needs and disposition as other people.

If your job calls for creative thinking, this device may be a wise investment for you. This also applies if you find walking an effective means of reducing stress. Otherwise, you may want to consider getting an ordinary standing desk instead.

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